The Red Deer Rebels are asking fans to be vaccinated or present a recent rapid COVID-19 test to enter games starting Monday.
Along with the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the three teams announced Thursday they will be implementing the Alberta government’s “COVID-19 Restrictions Exemption Program.”
As of Sept. 20, fans entering the Peavey Mart Centrium will need to show either proof of full vaccination, a single COVID-19 dose, administered 14 days prior to the game or a negative COVID-19 PCR or rapid test from a paid private testing provider, taken 72 hours prior to the game.
“We had been receiving a number of requests from ticket holders, members and partners about what protocols would look like. We’ve been consistent for some time that we’re going to follow whatever Alberta Health dictates,” said Red Deer Rebels senior vice president Merrick Sutter.
“Obviously after the announcement (Wednesday), we were presented with two options. It was a pretty quick decision. The other one is just impractical. This is the right thing for our business and for fan safety.”
If the Rebels didn’t implement the Restrictions Exemption Program, they would have been forced to operate at one-third capacity as of Monday.
With the Rebels unable to have fans during the COVID-19 shortened 23-game season last year, Sutter added it was an easy choice to jump on board with the Alberta government’s program. As a business that relies on fan-generated revenue and typically averages around 4,000 fans per game, the program was a must.
“In general, as we’ve seen the (COVID-19) situation deteriorate across the province over the last few weeks, we have anticipated that something might become a problem at a game in relation to the number of people that are coming,” Sutter added.
“We’ve always said consistently that we would follow Alberta Health so as not to confuse customers. If there was a provincial program and certainly as a business that didn’t exist last year, restrictions were something that we were going to be supportive of.”
Sutter said they will now work with Westerner Park to design a system for fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
“We’ll try and make it as seamless as possible,” he said.
“We would just encourage people to have their ID and proof of vaccination ready at the door.”
Both the Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen, who play out of NHL buildings, have already implemented a system to require fans to be fully vaccinated.
Regardless of vaccination status, masks are still required for all spectators, as per Alberta Health Services policy.
The new proof of vaccine policy does not apply for the Rebels exhibition game vs. Calgary on Friday at the Peavey Mart Centrium. It will be in place on Sept. 25, when the Rebels host their final preseason game at the Centrium against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.